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Looking after your hands. A guide to osteoarthritis management.

Luke Butler

By Luke Butler

2nd August 2021

Have you ever experienced aching joints, weak hands or difficulty with fine motor tasks? You may require management for osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects 1 in 11 Australians. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that occurs when the protective cartilage that lines the joints surface of our bones begins to degenerate. Over time this can lead to the surface of our bones rubbing together causing them to erode. This can result in joint pain and stiffness, and over time can impact strength and joint alignment. Many people with arthritis have their activities of daily living impacted or limited by these symptoms.

Treatment.

There are multiple therapies that can be completed to manage the symptoms of arthritis and reduce the pain and stiffness associated with this condition. The most effective treatments for osteoarthritis of the hands include exercise, the use of braces for joint support, heat therapy and self-management programs.

Exercise

Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for managing osteoarthritis. Exercise can be used to strengthen our muscles to support our joints, maintain joint range of motion and improve the co-ordination of movement. A therapist can help provide a client with multiple types of exercises including range of motion exercises, isometric and concentric strengthening exercises and proprioceptive exercises. These exercises can be used to help a client regain their ability to perform important everyday tasks.

Braces

When joints become less stable as osteoarthritis progresses, we can utilise brace to help provide stability. Current research strongly recommends the use of a brace to manage osteoarthritis of the 1st carpometacarpal joint. This joint consists of the bones that join our thumb to the wrist and is a common type of osteoarthritis that occurs in the hand. It is also recommended that a therapist provide guidance to patients on the use of a variety of mechanical supports including gloves, digital orthoses, ring splints and neoprene braces.

Education and Self-management Programs

One of the most import interventions a therapist can implement is proving a client with the skills and knowledge they need to self-manage their condition. A self-management plan aims to educate a patient on the pathology of their condition, set functional goals and promote positive thinking about condition management. The most effective self-management programs take a multidisciplinary approach. Doctors will often advise patients on pharmacological therapies for management of pain while physio or occupational therapist can provide information about joint protection measures, exercise programs and training of activity of daily living.

If you have any questions about management of osteoarthritis, feel free to contact Apricus Health.